(AN: A Naruto100 challenge: Forgiveness. Bonuses: Ghost, happiness.)
Jiraiya finishes the trilogy and sends it to the publishers only a few weeks before Orochimaru's secrets are revealed. They are published one after another. For all his proud smiles Jiraiya's heart can't help threatening to break at the sight of the bright orange covers.
A few years down the line he begins to toy with the idea of a sequel. He wants to erase the painful memories, replace them with good ones. He needs to do research of course. A lot of research. Sitting between a pair of pleasantly curved women he can relax, old ghosts laid to rest, and he can be happy. That is, until memories of sitting close, Orochimaru explaining his notes to Jiraiya resurface. The stubborn denial of there being anything imperfect in his script, and the nights spent diligently editing the trilogy with the snake ninja's advice in mind. The way Orochimaru's delicate eyebrow arched when he read the edited version, seeing the value of his opinion in black and white.
Jiraiya plays with the idea of writing that fourth book and sending it to Orochimaru (wherever he is) for revising and editing. A peace offering of sorts. Removing the bad parts of their pasts like bad writing in a first draft. Allowing the other back in between his covers so that they can rewrite it all into something better. Yet forgiveness is impossible, the ghosts of past crimes refusing to be crossed out of existence. He has to find another editor.
When it comes down to it he never can find the strength to sit down and write the fourth novel. It is lost in a sea of research that never seems to give him what he truly needs.
It is not until he takes Naruto under his wing that he picks up the pen again. Perhaps it is the way Naruto and Sasuke remind him of how it used to be that does it. He briefly considers letting Naruto revise the novel, but the boy's grammar is worse than his own, and the child wouldn't know good literature even if it jumped up and bit him in the behind.
After two years it is ready. The publishers are all over it.
A month after its publication Jiraiya receives a package. He gingerly opens it and finds a dog-eared and well-read copy of Icha Icha Tactics, full of notes and slips of paper in a handwriting he knows so well.
It never was like Orochimaru to hold a grudge.